Why isn’t climate change a bigger part of this election?

The economy, jobs, and immigration have loomed large in the federal election campaign. But where’s the environment?

While each party has presented policies seeking to address climate change, they haven’t faced much scrutiny, said Jennifer Winter at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

“I think the environment is really a secondary, even a tertiary issue in this election compared to the economy,” she said.

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Winter examined each party’s climate policy and found them all short on details, which she says creates uncertainty among consumers and industry.

“People like to know what the tank of gas will cost and businesses like to know how much they’ll have to pay,” she said.

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Extended video: Jennifer Winter on climate change and the election

The Green Party is the only one that identifies climate change as the biggest challenge Canada has ever faced, promising to eliminate fossil fuel use by mid-century.

Conservatives favour a sector-by-sector approach to lowering emissions, and in May announced their goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Conservative government has been criticized in the past for not meeting its own target to reduce emission by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The NDP is pledging to implement a price on carbon through a pan-Canadian cap-and-trade system. But the party has yet to release details about what the cap would be and how much it would cost.

Liberals say they’ll set emissions targets and work with provinces to figure out how to meet them. The party hasn’t released any specific timelines, other than to promise to meet with provinces within ninety days of the U.N conference on climate change in Paris in December.

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John Bennet, national spokesperson for the Sierra Club says the devil will be in the details.

“It’s really not the titles of it, it’s really what the target is and what the government is prepared to do to achieve it,” he said. “Is it prepared to face off with provinces that don’t want to do it?”

Provinces such as B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are pursuing their own policies to address climate change.

But the next Prime Minister has to be willing to lay down the law for more reluctant regions, Bennett said.

“Last time, under Kyoto, it was provincial feet-dragging that prevented us from going forward,” he said. “We can’t have a federal government that’s asking the provinces to act.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government will negotiate with whichever party forms the next federal government.

“Whether we’ll be able to meet everyone’s criteria, everyone’s standards, remains to be seen,” Notley said.

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